Over the past few decades, lifestyles have become more flexible and people are able to differentiate in their choices about practically everything. This isn’t just a consumer trend: businesses have also become wise to the fact that their employees all have different needs that need to be catered for through flexible benefits.
This has resulted in organisations taking a more individualistic approach to benefit provision.
In this blog, we explore what flexible benefits are, why they’re a popular choice and how your business can implement and get the most from them.
What Are Flexible Benefits?
All organisations provide employee benefits which are usually determined by grade. In most instances, the more senior the role, the more valuable the benefits package. Depending on seniority, core employee benefit packages, where the benefits are paid for by the employer, typically include items like:
private medical insurance
critical illness cover
long-term health cover
In addition, employers also often voluntary benefits like think discounted gym memberships, dental insurance and household or holiday insurance. Employees can choose to take up these products voluntarily, paying for the benefits themselves, usually out of their pay.
This approach is fine if the core benefits on offer meet every employee’s needs. But what if your employer provides a company car but you don’t drive? Or you’re already covered on your partner’s private medical insurance so you don’t gain any advantage from this benefit? Or you don’t have any dependents but your employer insists on providing life cover any way?
When benefits aren’t suitable for employees, companies are paying for benefits that aren’t used or they’re providing an unappetising benefit offering to their staff that fails to engage.
Flexible benefit programmes provide a solution to this problem. Instead of offering standard benefit packages in the usual way, flexible benefit packages enable employees to vary their pay and benefits to meet their personal requirements.
In most schemes, staff can retain their existing salary while selecting the right mix of benefits for them. Or they can adjust their salary up or down by taking fewer or more benefits.
Let’s look at some examples to explore how this works:
A single employee rejects the family private medical insurance cover they’re entitled to due to their grade and opts for single cover only – they receive the cost difference in cash
Someone who doesn’t take all their holidays each year chooses to sell five days holiday and uses the saving to take up family private medical cover with the rest taken as cash
An individual who doesn’t drive forgoes the company car benefit and takes the cash instead – they use it to buy more holiday and take up dental insurance and gym membership
These are just a few examples of the sorts of flexibility flexible benefit schemes can offer. However, not all programmes will be this flexible; some employers decide that their staff must take a certain level of benefits (usually items like life cover or other insurances) as a minimum. And there are other considerations, like minimum pension auto-enrolmentcontributions, that need to be worked into the scheme.
How Many Companies Use Flexible Schemes?
According to Aon, just 12% of employers operate flexible benefit schemes. Which is surprising given research from Willis Towers Watson which shows that:
66% of employees who are offered choice in their benefits report their benefits meet their needs
30% of employees who are not offered choice in their benefits report their benefits meet their needs
However, the answer could lie in the perceived challenges associated with setting up and running a flexible benefit scheme.
What to Consider When Setting Up a Flexible Benefits Programme
There’s a lot to think about if you want to set up a flexible benefits scheme in your organisation:
Online or paper – this might work for smaller businesses or those where staff don’t have access to computers. Otherwise online options, although more expensive, tend to offer ease of use and greater flexibility.
Choosing benefit options – it’s easiest to transition your existing benefits to a flex scheme before expanding the options available. You’ll need to decide which benefits must be selected or whether you want to allow a more flexible approach.
Keeping schemes up to date – every change in your benefits, tax and legislation must be reflected in your scheme which involves additional work in terms of configuring scheme rules, calculations and systems (if online).
Although each of these sounds fairly straight forward, flexible benefit schemes can quickly become complex and require technical decision making which requires HR specialist knowledge.
However, the pay off could well be worth the effort as flexible benefits help organisations stand out in the recruitment marketplace. And they can also be a powerful tool for retention as your benefit packagewill meet the needs of every segment of your workforce, regardless of life stage.
There’s a lot to think about if you want to set up a successful flexible benefits scheme, so consider working with a seasoned HR consultant to ensure you deliver legally and secure a great return on your investment.
For flexible support with all your HR projects, get in touch with Crosse HR on 0330 555 1139 or at email@example.com.
15.1 million women are at work in the UK. So it’s safe to assume that at some stage in the next 20 or so years those 15.1m women will go through the menopause in the workplace. That’s an awful lot of people who are absolutely guaranteed to go through a fairly seismic shift in their lives. Learn more about managing the menopause in the workplace and download our free Menopause HR Policy.
Menopause in the Workplace
We hear a lot of talk about millennials and their issues, but consider this, a huge proportion of the workforce at any given time is going through a massive physical and physiological change and no one wants to talk about it much less do anything about it.
99% of businesses in the UK do not even have a menopause in the workplace policy, they have Well-being policies sure but nothing not a jot, iota or mention of what perhaps 10% of their workforce is going through and 50% will face at some stage in their lives.
We all have mothers, sisters, friends, wives, girlfriends, work colleagues, so it’s safe to assume that all of us know someone that is going through this right now – silently, alone and totally ignored.
The average age for women to go through the menopause is 51, (some go through it much earlier, some later), it can last up to 7 years, yes you heard right, 7 long, upsetting, draining, weird years. Symptoms include interrupted sleep, hot flushes, night sweats, night terrors, weight gain, irritability, mood swings, depression, general malaise, brain fog and a lot more I won’t mention – in short, a fairly miserable set of symptoms.
With the skills shortage in the UK we will all have to work a lot longer (up to 70 and beyond) as we have diddly squat in pensions. But yet, not yet halfway through their working lives, a huge proportion of women are going through the hell that is the menopause in the workplace – unsupported.
Do you have a Menopause Policy?
Recently I’ve written a Menopause HR Policy, to help all employers and I mean ALL employers deal with this issue. Include it in your wellbeing policies, have it as a stand-alone, it’s as important as your maternity policy. You can download it below for free. So employers start preparing and start by buying fans!
Download your Free Menopause in the Workplace HR Policy
With more people living longer, the workforce contains a higher proportion of older workers than ever before. And this demographic trend is only going to continue with one in five of the UK population expected to be 65 or older by 2030.
With pension pots failing to provide people with the retirement they want, more people are working longer. However, many people over the age of 50 are at risk of leaving the workforce early. And not always because they want to.
With many businesses struggling to recruit due to high employment rates, it’s time to consider hiring older workers and all the benefits they can bring.
The Challenges Faced by Older Workers
Older workers are generally considered to be people over the age of 50. However, in some industries served by younger people – thinkfashion retail or hospitality – older workers could be thought of as anyone over the age of 35.
According to the Centre for Ageing Better, staff over 50 face age discrimination when applying for jobs or trying to progress their careers. They are also:
more likely to be stuck in low paid jobs
feel most insecure about losing their jobs
less likely to be offered opportunities for development
In fact, only 25% of employees aged 50-59 and 22% of those aged 60-69 felt their employer encouraged them to take up learning and development opportunities. This is a significant drop compared to 44% of 18-39 year-olds and 32% of 40-49 year-olds.[Text Wrapping Break]
With older workers forming an increasing part of the workforce, it’s time for employers to change their perspectives and understand what the over 50s can contribute.
What They Bring to Your Business
Older doesn’t mean worse. In fact, many of the UK’s key industries rely on more mature staff. Take farming. The average age of a UK farmer is 59. These people bring years of skill and expertise to their jobs. And the country remains well fed and is able to export meat and other produce because of their work.
There are plenty of other benefits that come with hiring older employees:
They’re less likely to leave than their younger counterparts – saving you time and money when it comes to recruitment and training.
They’ll understand your ageing customer base better – as the population ages, it’s not only workers but customers who will be getting older. Having employees who are the same age as your customers, who understand their needs and can talk to them on an equal footing will bring major benefits to your business.
Diversity brings additional advantages to your wider team and business – and that includes age diversity. Think fresh perspectives, knowledge sharing, new ideas and improved problem solving.
There are also benefits to the economy as employing more older workers will contribute to tax revenues offsetting some of the costs associated with an ageing population. If everyone in the UK worked one year longer, GDP would increase by 1%. Which can only be good for the economy and, by proxy, your business.
Managing Older Workers
Hiring older workers may be easier in some locations than others due to the demographic makeup of the area in which your business is located.
Cities tend to have larger populations of younger people whereas older people often move away from urban areas. So, if hiring over 50s sounds like a good option for your firm, you might need HR support to attract and retain the right people.
But it’s not just recruitment that you’ll need to consider. Think about adjusting your workplace practices to create an age-friendly culture that appeals to all generations.
A key practice that cuts across all age groups (although for different reasons), is flexible working. For older workers this could mean giving people the opportunity to work from home, condense their hours or work part-time or in job shares. These options will allow them to:
achieve better work-life balance
carry out caring responsibilities
manage health conditions
wind down to retirement
Making flexible working practices available to all staff is a certain way to engage your people, whatever their age.
For older workers you might also need to consider making changes to:
Work tasks – heavy lifting could be a no-go for some older people but judge this on a case by case basis
Training provision – ensuring everyone in your team is up to speed with how you work will deliver best return on your compensation and benefits investment
Technology – not all over 50s are behind the technology times but you might need to invest in technology training to ensure your latest recruit is up to speed. This could mean introducing formal training sessions or learning on the job by being buddied up with a colleague.
As skill shortages worsen and the working population ages, hiring older workers will be a necessity for many businesses. The workplace imposes barriers on every individual and all employees, no matter their age, have their individual strengths and weaknesses. Your challenge as a business owner is to find out where your staff need support and where you can make the most of their existing expertise.
Everyone of us has issued dismissals or personally left a job, many of us many times, it’s a fact of life if you run or own a business, people will come and people will go. Some will leave with your blessing and leave well, some will be ‘encouraged’ by you to go and others will bawl you out/or you them in a blaze of glory, recriminations and occasionally vandalism.
The good leavers
They are a good sort, usually good employees, who just want to move on for whatever reason, they feel bad but its the right thing to do. They come in anxious and nervous, some cry and tell you they are leaving, thank you for your help, they want to work their notice and want to leave as friends.
What should you do?
Shake their hand, wish them well and start organising the leaving party. On a practical note, agree a last working day, agree whether or not they wish to work right up to their last day or take any leave due to them. Also agree a handover to their successor and/or whether you will involve them in recruiting a successor. Agree with them how they should tell the team and any clients and then start organising the leaving drinks. All’s well.
Then there’s the bad leavers – AKA dismissals
These come in many forms, here are a few regular ways to exit badly:
One day they don’t show up and you never see or hear from them again. It’s all a bit strange and a bit puzzling and no one is really sure why – they seemed alright at the time.
What do you do?
Try to determine a) if they are alright b) if they ever intend coming back c) if all else just for curiosity’s sake try to establish the reason why. Write, call or email asking them to get in touch. Give them a deadline date to do so, advise them that you will assume they no longer with to work with you if they do not get in touch. There is no point worrying about notice periods etc, it wastes time just pay them up to the last day they worked and any annual leave accrued, issue the P45 and move on.
Dismissals with an immediate bang
They’ve handed in their notice, its all going ok sort of and all of a sudden they tell you, I’m not working to the end of my notice and that’s it.
What should you do?
Well if you were happy for them to work their notice and they don’t want to, they have waived their right to work their contracted notice and for this they do not get paid. Put it in writing and move on.
I want you gone and NOW!
They’ve handed in their notice and things have gone from bad to worse, you can’t bear the sight of them and they have no intention of doing a stroke of work until that last day. You want them gone and now.
What should you do?
If you do then you have to pay for it. You put them on ‘gardening leave’ tell them not to come in anymore and pay them up to the end of their notice. This dismissal process tends to be the easiest.
And finally…… the references
The very least you should do, is give a factual reference confirming job title and dates of employment and always include a disclaimer. Avoid all personal opinions and keep it as benign or as neutral as possible.
Get in touch if you need help with references, dismissals and/or leavers.
This is the time of year the rows start – the annual leave booking season. Wall calendars and online calendars are pored over and leave is booked, most of it around the same time, there will be rows between parents and non parents about who should take priority and why and on we go.
So it makes sense to have a few set of rules to try and take the tension out of the whole thing.
Firstly be clear about how much leave can be blocked in one go i.e. one, two week blocks (financial services now insist on this), if there is a cap i.e. two weeks maximum etc.
Secondly, be clear how much advance notice must be given, a month’s notice is usually acceptable if you want to book a week, 2 days is not acceptable if you want to book anything at all and if leave needs to be approved by a manager or some such.
Thirdly, be clear leave can be refused, obviously as a last resort and with good reason but it’s good to get the story straight.
Fourthly, be very clear about how many employees can be out at the same time. It never ceases to amaze me, no matter how often you say it and set the limits, they will give it a go anyway and all book the same time off and fight about it for weeks afterwards.
Fifthly, be very clear what precedents you want to set i.e. if you had the first two weeks off in July last year, you might not get it this year, same goes for half terms, school holidays and Christmas.
Sixthly, what the rules are if you are sick on holidays (holiday can be claimed back if proven), if your flight is delayed (usually unpaid, get proof) and you don’t get back when you are supposed to, the rules around social media and mixing the professional with personal, working on holiday, using the work mobile on holiday etc.
And as an aside, it’s amazing how many of my clients who are schools that have set holidays agreed years in advance, encounter the same problems with leave! So if you are a school struggling with leave requests outside of school holidays, call me 0330 555 1139.
Finally, when it comes to annual leave, be fair, consistent and apply the rules to all staff, no exceptions.
If in doubt contact CrosseHR, we’ll draft a policy for you to be proud of.
Employee contract: One of the most popular questions I get asked (about 3 times a week) is do I have to issue a contract of employment?
Well that’s an easy one to answer, that answer is you do have to issue a ‘Statement of Particulars’ within 2 months of someone starting employment with you. That usually takes the form of an employee contract to us lay-folk. It doesn’t have to be in writing but everything is better written down and signed by both parties – trust me. But all that is changing in April 2020 when the Government’s ‘Good Work Plan’ comes into effect and from then on you will have to give all employees a contract on their first day of work.
Surely it’s better for me if I don’t issue one?
The answer is NO it is not better at all. It’s breaking the law for a start and that’s never good is it? At the moment you have 2 months to do it but from next year you don’t so get into good habits now and start issuing them as soon as.
What then should be in an employee contract I hear you ask?
Here is the minimum list, as set out by those wise folks at ACAS
The employee contract can be made up of more than one document (if the employer gives employees different sections of their statement at different times). If this does happen, one of the documents (called the ‘principal statement’) must include at least:
the business’s name
the employee’s name, job title or a description of work and start date
if a previous job counts towards a period of continuous employment, the date the period started
how much and how often an employee will get paid
hours of work (and if employees will have to work Sundays, nights or overtime
holiday entitlement (and if that includes public holidays)
where an employee will be working and whether they might have to relocate
if an employee works in different places, where these will be and what the employer’s address is
As well as the principal statement, a written statement must also contain information about:
how long a temporary job is expected to last
the end date of a fixed-term contract
who to go to with a grievance
how to complain about how a grievance is handled
how to complain about a disciplinary or dismissal decision
The written statement doesn’t need to cover the following (but it must say where the information can be found) – I usually put these in an appendix at the back:
sick pay and procedures
disciplinary and dismissal procedures
Fear not, we here at CrosseHR can draft contract for you that is easy, suits your business, legally compliant and keeps everyone happy.
Next month it’s time to think about holidays, which coincidentally is the theme of my next blog.
Growing your business inevitably means a bigger workforce. And with more people comes more lines of communication and added complexity. To operate effectively as you scale, it’s necessary to introduce technology, culture and advanced management processes underpinned by solid HR support.
But how do you scale HR? We outline the key HR changes you need to grow your business effectively and efficiently while reducing complexity
Don’t Cross Your Lines of Communication
Running a business with up to twelve employees is fairly straight forward. With a manageable number of personalities, demands and people to communicate with, your HR practices will tend to ensure you’re meeting your legal obligations.
When you reach 13 to 50 people, the situation changes. You’re in what Dan Priestley terms “the desert”: you’re too big to be small and too small to be big. Communication lines increase significantly with each additional person you bring in making it more difficult to convey messages, make decisions and complete work.
The solution? You need to start adapting your culture and communications to set your business up for even more successful and painless growth. Doing this requires a more strategic approach to HR.
Managing Culture From a Distance
As your business reaches the magic tipping point of 13 employees, it’s time to accept you can’t control everything in the same way that you used to. To counteract this, you need to start setting overarching guidelines not just about what you do but about how you do business.
Being clear on the values and behaviours that are important to your business will help you:
Help you recruit an authentic, strong team who are a good fit for the business
Identify which employees, both leaders and less senior staff, will further your business growth and those who won’t
Making difficult decisions are just one of the growing pains associated with business expansion. And having a HR resource available to help you deal with them legally and fairly is critical to maintaining employee engagement.
Recruiting and Retaining the Right People
When business growth is one of your main objectives, recruitment and retention are a key part of the plan. Making an occasional job offer for a particular role is one thing; hiring larger numbers of the best talent to accomplish your growth goals is quite different.
In a fierce labour market, your competitors are vying for your ideal candidate’s attention. To stand out you need to ensure you have a:
clear employer brand and value proposition – one that clarifies who you are as a business and makes you stand out to employees for the right reasons
competitive compensation and benefits to attract and retain staff
slick hiring and onboarding practices that create a great first impression and reduce turnover in the first three months
a clear organisational structure with job roles, reporting lines and career paths so candidates and employees can see a future with your organisation
By getting people through the door effectively and keeping them happy, you’ll retain valuable knowledge and experience, enable the business growth and save time and money by only having to hire once for a role.
Easing the Administrative Burden With HR Technology
With every new hire comes a pile of additional paperwork. Doing everything manually will soon become unmanageable. Which is why it’s so important to get sound administrative practices and the right tools in place.
Replace Excel spreadsheet with HR technology to help you manage everything from holidays and pay to emergency contacts and expenses more easily. A HR database that captures and manages all your people information and is compliant with the GDPR is a critical step.
Look for technology that enables you to keep on top of your people costs with speedy analysis and reporting. Want to know whether your employees’ productivity is keeping pace with your growth plans? Or understand how many people are leaving and at what rate? Or the cost of your benefits? HR technology can deliver this for you.
Build Your Team
Any growing business that doesn’t have sufficient HR support in place will invariably reach a point where it becomes overloaded and fails to grow. Or stumbles over employment law and finds itself in a sticky situation.
Working with an external HR consultant and getting HR support will enable your business to scale while minimising risk and controlling costs. With solid HR processes in place and a developing culture, your business can grow from strength to strength. All supported by a happy, engaged workforce who build your reputation as a great firm to do business with.